Immersive Storylab in collaboration with Liverpool University’s Centre of Architecture and the Visual Arts (CAVA), Culture Liverpool, Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, Draw & Code, Cinetecture and Dimension Studios have developed a ground-breaking participatory and immersive mixed reality experience called “If These Walls Could Talk”.

Bringing together world-leading researchers with BAFTA winning writers, a world-class performing arts organisation and immersive technology experts, the team have created a pioneering hybrid spatial experience that considers how audiences can be a part of storytelling.

The location-based prototype was produced for one of Liverpool’s most iconic heritage buildings – the 19th century St George’s Hall (Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, built 1841–1854), which is an intrinsic part of Liverpool’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The experience sees the famous court case of Florence Maybrick who was accused of poisoning her husband, and taken on a journey back in time to experience and feel what it was like to encounter Liverpool’s late Victorian prison and justice system. Set across the cells and the courtroom at St George’s hall, the experiences uses variety of technologies such as Virtual Reality, 3d Projection Mapping, Mixed Reality (Microsoft Hololens) and live performance to invite the audience into the last moments of the court case.

The experience used a headset device called the Hololens, which enables users to see both the real world and the virtual one at the same time. With the support of Microsoft’s Mixed Reality team in the US, the team also created the word’s first volumetrically filmed (3D holograms) UNESCO heritage experience using Microsoft’s Mixed Reality capture system at Dimension Studios in London.

Commenting on the experience Peter Woodbridge, Director at Immersive Storylab and the creator and producer of the experience said….”We think the future of heritage experiences are about how you involve an audience as a participant, rather than as a spectator, in the story. This experience combines the real space with virtual objects to enable us to bring the building to life with virtual characters and sound. In this experience the audience is part of the story, also on trial as they encounter holograms, spatial sounds and stories from the past.”

“Our experience takes place across 5,000 square feet of this magnificent UNESCO world heritage building, which was a real challenge in the ways we had to push the technology.”

BAFTA award winning writer Rosemary Kay, Director at Immersive Storylab, and the writer for the experience says “This allows the audience to feel immersed in the experience of being a prisoner in this grim place, seeing, hearing all the other prisoners around them. The experience treated the audience like Victorian criminals as they were led physically from the dank, cramped cells, past the whipping bench, up the stairs and into the imposing courtroom, where they get tried and found guilty, alongside our historic holograms.”

“We think there’s a real future in these technologies for bringing heritage to life and making us feel a part of the past.”

The team behind the experience have been working on research into spatial storytelling, human performance in mixed reality and augmented reality. To find out more about their work in bringing history to life please visit http://www.cava-research.org and www.immersivestorylab.com to find out more.